Goaltender Roberto Luongo, though, has a chance to grab a piece of history as the Canucks wrap up a successful regular season Sunday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Luongo, acquired in an off-season trade with the Florida Panthers, has been everything the Canucks (49-25-7) hoped for and more as they won their second division title in three seasons and the fifth in franchise history.
He made 27 saves in a 4-3 overtime victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday that also was his 47th win, leaving him one behind New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, who currently holds the single-season record heading into his team’s last game against the New York Islanders on Sunday.
The game had a playoff-like atmosphere, impressing Luongo more than his matching the previous single-season wins mark of Philadelphia’s Bernie Parent.
”It was one of the most intense games I’ve played all year,” Luongo said. ”You could feel it in the air.”
Mattias Ohlund scored a power-play goal 34 seconds into overtime, 14 seconds after Sharks centre Joe Thornton was called for tripping. Thornton also drilled Canucks forward Matt Cooke into the boards in the third period, drawing the ire of Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.
”I think if it’s any other guy in the league, you have to call a major (penalty),” Vigneault said. ”But Thornton is an all-star player, and obviously he gets a lot of leeway, and he gets a lot of decisions going his way.”
Vancouver’s 105 points are a franchise record, eclipsing the 104 earned in 2002-03. The Canucks also would record their first 50-win season in franchise history with a victory.
While the Canucks are going to the playoffs, the Coyotes (30-46-5) again are playing out the string as they will miss their fourth consecutive post-season. Wayne Gretzky’s first full season as Phoenix coach will end with a last-place finish in the Western Conference, a fate guaranteed following Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Los Angeles.
”If you’re not in the playoffs, it’s embarrassing. But to be last is not something you want to be,” Nick Boynton said. ”It’s not something to be proud of.”
There are many reasons behind the disappointing season. The Coyotes have allowed a conference high-tying 283 goals, lost their final seven road games en route to a 13-26-2 finish there and also played in a highly competitive Pacific Division that featured three teams with at least 105 points.
The game might also mark the end of veteran Jeremy Roenick’s second stint with Phoenix, and possibly his NHL career. The 37-year-old centre, who signed a free agent contract with the Coyotes before the season, has just 10 goals and 26 points in 68 games.
He is six goals shy of 500 for his career but has scored just 28 in his last three seasons.
Vancouver has won all three games between the teams this season, with Luongo stopping 49 of 54 shots in two victories. Backup Danny Sabourin made 26 saves in the last game, a 4-2 win on March 8.
The Canucks have not swept this season series since 1993-94, when the Coyotes were known as the Winnipeg Jets. Vancouver reached the Stanley Cup final that season before losing to the New York Rangers in seven games.